Sunday, March 17, 2013


So, I tried to upload a bunch of photos from the soccer game last weekend, but the Internet isn't cooperating. The girls looked dashing in their uniforms – red shirts, black shorts, and bright yellow socks (which were so old the elastic wouldn't enable them to stay up and so the socks pooled around their ankles). We won, 2-0, and then had Monday off from practice.

It may be a the middle of March for us, but the month is really just getting started here. 

As an experiment, I've been keeping track of my budget for the Ethiopian month of February.  I remember infomercials as a kid, that a dollar a day could make all the difference to a kid in Africa. So I set out to see if that was true. A dollar is worth about 18 bir, and as all months here are 30 days, that's 540 bir a month.

No way I tried to live on 540 for the month. I like my comforts, and naturally spend more than most habasha. I need to go to Assella once a week for Internet to check on home and stuff from Peace Corps. Dani, my landlady, maybe goes to Eteya (half the distance) every other month.  But I kept track of my costs for everything and then separated what I considered ferengi expanses from expenses I feel most Huruta locals would have.

The result? 337.80 bir a month on local costs (compared to the 1,123.70 I spent total).

Granted, that's essentially just my grocery and phone bill. (Well, market bill. I buy food like nutella, oatmeal, and powdered milk that most Ethiopians don't.) And I only bought meat once. Plus one bottle of laundry soap.  It doesn't include rent and utilities (which I think is about 150 bir a month for a room) or clothes or school supplies. It also is only the costs for one person to eat.  Families here are large, six or seven is not uncommon.  Lots of items are also bought in bulk. Dani buys 750 bir of teff at a time, because the grain only comes in large 50 kg bags.  And usually a family will buy an animal instead of ½ kilo of meat from the store. A mid sized goat? 700 bir.

So, does a dollar a day make a difference? I'd say yes. You can't live on it, no way, but it will guarantee a more varied diet by allowing 'extra' food to be purchased.  'Extra' food here is fruit, eggs, milk, and tomatoes. The average family doesn't eat those on a regular basis.  Or it will allow more of the staples to fill the kitchen, if the family is struggling with that.

There really isn't any NGO offering such a program in Huruta, but Compassion does have a sponsor program that for $38 a month will cover not only school costs but provide additional classes in subjects like hygiene and life skills. It also covers an HIV test for the families once a year, a field trip a year for the students, and paid for my soccer team's uniforms.

It's amazing how well you can stretch a dollar when you have a good exchange rate. 


Anonymous said...

How much for a McDouble with small fries at Huruta's Mickey Ds?

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